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Changing your brand

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Relaunching your brand or the identity of your non profit organisation.

Market research will indicate the point at which the way your charity is regarded is so at odds with how you wish to be regarded, that you have to do something. In marketing this is called a relaunch. Sensitive trustees and staff may also alert you to this situation.

There came a time when the National Old People’s Welfare Council had to change and it became Age Concern, when the Spastics Society had to change and it became Scope, and the National Schizophrenia Fellowship had to change and it became Rethink.

If you are being as radical as changing your name, be careful! When I led the communications department at National Old Peoples Welfare Council, it was easy for me to recommend changing the name to Age Concern because very few people were aware of the existing name. In contrast, changing the organisation name was not an option when I worked at RNIB because of the huge brand equity built into the name.

Choosing a new name

If your relaunch is to involve a name change how do you choose one? First you use creative people to give you options, then you assess whether the names meet the criteria of being:

  • distinctive
  • relevant
  • memorable
  • flexible.

Finally you test out your shortlist with you your customer groups through market research. Your customers must have the major say once you have an acceptable short list.

When we had developed a shortlist of names for Age Concern, the chief executive preferred Age Link and I wanted to go with Age Action. But more than three quarters of the 1,000 older people we interviewed preferred Age Concern!

Here's my view of how a few brand names measure up against the four selection criteria:

  1. Age Concern: If I had known as much about marketing then as I know now, the name Age Concern probably wouldn't have made the shortlist - although it is relevant, memorable and flexible, it is weaker on distinctiveness and people often confuse the major players in the sector.
  2. Guide Dogs for the Blind: Distinctive, relevant and memorable but not flexible. This has caused havoc on occasions when donors have found out that they do 'more than dogs'. 
  3. British Red Cross: fulfils all the criteria except relevance. But no name is perfect and it all comes down to what you do with your brand, how well you live up to it and how well you communicate it. The British Red Cross does that very well, hence it is a strong brand.

Relaunches must be genuine

There is one golden rule for relaunches – they must be genuine. If you say you have changed and you haven’t, you’ll get caught out and the charities reputation will be severely damaged in the process.

Reputational damage is bad for any organisation but for a charity which depends on trust to survive and do good, it is absolutely critical.

Page last edited Apr 28, 2017

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